Featured Publication – Manland by Peter Raynard

Our featured publication for September and October is Manland by Peter Raynard, published by Nine Arches Press.

Peter Raynard’s Manland is a bold, brilliant and outspoken new collection of poems that scrutinise men and manhood, mental health, working class lives and disability. Aloud and alive with music, wit, anger and rebellion, this is an accomplished, politically aware and vital book.

Raynard is a skilled observer, and these razor-sharp poems document parenthood through the lens of a stay-at-home dad, attempt to tell the truth about men and depression, study our cultural and social and medical relationships with drugs and drug-taking, and lay bare the realities of life at the sharpest edges of society. By turns frank, painful and bleakly funny, this humane and brilliant book encompasses pride and prejudices, the bonds between lads and dads, the toxic pressures of masculinity and the way illness and poverty irrevocably shape lives.

In Manland Peter Raynard traverses the unstable terrain of working-class masculinity. His poems meet manhood in all of its banter and swagger; its persistent myths and dangerous silences. With his characteristic lyric verve, Raynard explores what it means to be a man, a father, a husband, and a son. The result is moving, candid, wise and tender, full of humour and hard-won insight. A convincing and beautiful book.” Fran Lock

Part manifesto, part hymn, part raging lament, this collection takes apart the dirty engine of so-called masculinity, strips it down to its component parts, reconsiders and rearranges them using a dazzling array of poetic forms. It is only through acknowledging the strength of their vulnerability, these poems suggest, that men will be able to manifest change in our broken system where the violence of patriarchy is the enemy of us all.” Jacqueline Saphra

One of the things I love most about Peter Raynard’s work is his voice. His voice is necessary, vital, passionate. It is the voice of anger at social injustice, a voice that deconstructs toxic masculinity, a chronicler of illness. Above all, it is the voice of truth. He tells us how the world is, not how we would like it to be. In this way, Peter Raynard is nothing short of a truth-teller.” Richard Skinner

Go On My Son

Previously published in the Rialto

Home-Father’s Beside Himself at the Seaside

previously published in the North

A Sestina to Die For

previously published in The Brown Book Anthology

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Peter Raynard is a disabled working class poet, and editor. Born in Coventry, he now lives in St Albans. He has been widely published in journals and anthologies. Peter edited Proletarian Poetry: poems of working class lives, for five years (www.proletarianpoetry.com), featuring over 150 contemporary poets.

He has written three poetry books; Manland (Nine Arches Press, 2022), Precarious (Smokestack Books, 2018), and The Combination: a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto (Culture Matters, 2018). He has been an associate of Culture Matters and alumni of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen where he was a member for five years.

Copies of Manland are available from the Nine Arches Press website.

Verdict – Rebecca Gethin

Verdict

Today was almost the last

just as the willow warblers return,
as flies emerge and crawl to his eyes,
as the first swallows test the sky,
as the ground stiffens under his feet.

He shifts his weight from leg to leg.
His apple rump has withered.

We put the case
on either side
back and forth
across his sunken spine,

rubbing his neck and ears
flicking away the horsefly
he doesn’t swish his tail at.

His body prosecutes himself.

He doesn’t nudge me for a carrot
nor intimate whether
in his 36 years with us
he has learned our tones

and understands
the vet is coming
tomorrow afternoon at 3.

Rebecca Gethin has written 5 poetry publications. She was a Hawthornden Fellow and a Poetry School tutor. Vanishings was published by Palewell Press in 2020.  She was a winner in the first Coast to Coast to Coast pamphlet competition with Messages. She blogs sporadically at http://www.rebeccagethin.wordpress.com

The New is The New – Elizabeth McGeown

The New is The New

Indie boys telling you to read House of Leaves is the new indie boys telling you to read China
Mieville is the new indie boys telling you to listen to Pavement is the new indie boys telling you
to listen to My Bloody Valentine is the new indie boys wearing Moog tshirts is the new It’s
pronounced mogue is the new indie boys wearing flannel shirts is the new indie boys with one
shaved eyebrow is the new indie boys giving themselves tinnitus from standing too close to the
speakers at Lightning Bolt is the new indie boys telling you your fringe is the most interesting
thing about you is the new indie boys buying Polaroid cameras is the new indie boys telling you
this isn’t a date is the new indie boys telling you your little finger isn’t strong enough for bar
chords is the new indie boys with fisheye lenses is the new indie boys learning Swedish is the
new indie boys learning violin for their new folk-punk duo is the new indie boys telling you
aren’t technically minded enough to study music technology is the new indie boys only buying
vinyl because it sounds richer is the new indie boys telling you your voice has too much vibrato
is the new indie boys telling you you would need cheekbones like Cleopatra to carry off that
haircut.

Elizabeth McGeown is based in Belfast, Northern Ireland and has poems published or forthcoming in Banshee, Abridged and Under the Radar. She is the 2022 UK Poetry Slam Champion and her first collection ‘Cockroach’ is out with Verve in Summer 2022.

Privilege – Gill Barr

Privilege

Well, it was the unionists,
they had wealth, they had power
they wanted to keep it to themselves
and people like us, well, you were basically
told who to vote for, but I was lucky
because I was brought up in a mixed area
Catholics and Protestants together
and the house I bought with your mother
was in a mixed street
and I never had problems with anyone.
We were all working people
and we all had the same problem,
barely enough money…

Gill Barr’s poems have appeared in Bad LiliesThe Honest Ulsterman and The New European. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Queen’s University, Belfast and is appearing at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2022.

Drill – Nuala Watt

Drill

Abandon your experiments. But how? And why? Is this a five second warning – leave
everything and run? Stop. It is not clear how to abandon your experiments; the body has a
range of measures to prevent your doing this, and the spirit’s an experiment unto itself. What
an awkward phrase – unto itself. The spirit moves more easily than that. The spirit is as
mobile as an itch. As long as it is, it is like an experiment. So there.

Nuala Watt’s poems have appeared on BBC Radio 3 and in anthologies including  Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press 2017)  and A Year of Scottish Poems (Macmillan 2018) 

Crab Fishing – Rachel Bruce

Crab Fishing

Tiny monster, blanketed in the earth’s skin;
the spirit of Achilles lives in you.
You are a funny thing to fear.

I remember the sun soaked breezes of Brownsea
where little fires jumped from branch to branch.
Our assaults were always fruitful there.

Children have no mercy. We hunted eagerly,
pulling you from the deep, calculated and slow.
How we squealed at your shadows in the water.

Once captured, we gazed beadily at you
scrabbling at the plastic walls.
Soon we’d hold an army in our bucket.

When we tired of our labour,
desiring sandwiches and dry clothes,
we turned from soldiers to emperors.

Turning the bucket onto the deck,
like toying gods we watched you race away,
fleeing back to the salt from whence you came.

I wish I could have seen you floating down,
parachuting into the dark as living meteors.
When I see you now, I smile at the memory of those days.

How cruel we were then in our love;
and still I yearn to fish again,
reaching down into the sandy unknown.

Rachel Bruce is a poet based in London. Her work has appeared in The Telegraph, Eye Flash Poetry, The Daily Drunk, Hencroft Hub, and Atrium among others. Find her on Twitter @still_emo.

Time and again – Livvy Hanks

Time and again

One day – how can I know which? –
I lose my diary. Brain lurches
into the chasm of the year:
who is expecting me, and where?
Who is even now drumming their fingers on Formica,
alone with their agenda
and their forbearing frown?

There is terror, then liberation.
Everything is unexpected: friends drop by,
then don’t. I make appointments,
note them on a nearby banana,
which I eat. The whole world
is continually in rooms and restaurants without me.

Encouraged, I throw my alarm out of the window,
put my watch in the bath. My phone
is a landline, it is 1997 –
I presume. It cannot remind me of anything
and almost everything is yet to happen.

The days are short and frosty,
then fresh, then long. At last I panic.
It is nearing the time when I will meet you,
but nothing can tell me when.
The town hall clock, beneath which we will meet,
is broken. I walk there every day as the sun goes down
and look around me,
wondering if I will recognise your face.

Livvy Hanks has an MA in Literary Translation from the University of East Anglia, and worked as an editor before moving into policy and campaigning work. Her poetry was most recently published in Lighthouse. She lives in Norwich. Twitter: @livvyhanks

Archive – Jacqueline Haskell

Archive

Sometimes you catch the train into the city, the central library,
for the archive. There you watch footage from the war,
scan blown glass, missile drops, train stations.

A home video, newly surfaced, downloaded from an ancient iPhone:
refugees crossing at Medyka, waiting to board buses, going west.
The librarians know to call you when this happens.

You would know it anywhere, her coat; too distinctive to miss
with its lupin-coloured quilting, fake-fur collar and
the striped pixie hood she swore made her invisible.

Sometimes you catch the train into the city, the central library,
for the archive, hoping to see her – you and her – that exact moment
when she was there at Medyka, holding your hand. And then not.

By now you know them better than you know your own, the librarians –
where they go for lunch, the park bench, summer, winter,
their children and grand-children: whether their coats have hoods.

Jacqueline Haskell’s first poetry collection, Stroking Cerberus, was published by Myriad Editions in 2020 – https://myriadeditions.com/books/stroking-cerberus/ – as part of the Spotlight Books series. Her debut novel, The Auspice, was a finalist in both the 2018 Bath Novel Award and the 2020 Cinnamon International Literature Prize.

Howl – Lisa Kelly

Howl

Brecean, Brittany, 11 September 2021

They told me they found two owls, 
two dead owls, and they supposed 
the owls must have flown down   
the chimney and the owls had no way  
of knowing how to fly back up  
the chimney into the night sky.  
They died a desiccated death 
and they told me if I’d seen the owls, 
I would have cried. The owls were  
barn owls, beautiful and the extraordinary  
thing was the weight of the owls, 
incredibly and unexpectedly light. 
They put the owls in a bin bag  
because owls are a protected species  
and this is what the town hall said  
must be done and to drop off the owls  
at the town hall. I wanted to know  
more about the owls and asked  
if they died together but no 
one owl died at one end of the loft 
and the other owl not especially nearby.

Lisa Kelly’s first collection, A Map Towards Fluency, (Carcanet) was shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Poetry Prize 2021. She is co-editor of What Meets the Eye, (Arachne Press) an anthology of poetry and short fiction by UK D/deaf writers.

25 – Ella Dorman-Gajic

25

A mouth has been at the bins again. 
On the District Line, I find egg stuck to my Nikes. 
Kid in my class asks: they Air Force 1?
& I feel my wrinkles. So I wash my face 
in London’s spit, until Simple is on offer. 
Am I grown yet? I watch YouTube tutorials
from my office chair; catch a flash of grey 
in my Groovy-Chic mirror;
have now realised it really isn’t possible
to kick a pigeon. The new housemate is in the shower
again. I wish I knew how to look after
my damn plants. I could be pregnant right now.
The only thing I own of my Oma’s is her hair, in a box. I cry
when I miss the 37 bus. They are terribly irregular. 
How could I have known I would not need 
all these dresses. The sea is pouring 
from my wardrobe. Maybe I should get out of the house. 
Watch the green ducklings, iridescent nappies. A world 
with more coke products than tigers.  
My screen asks: Want to add a free drink to your order?
I should wake up from my desk now, it’s been two years. 
John’s been awaiting my email.

Ella Dorman-Gajic is a London-based playwright, poet & performer. Her writing has been described as “impassioned” by The Guardian. Her debut play Trade premiered at Omnibus Theatre in 2022. She’s part of the Roundhouse Poetry collective & alumna of Apples & Snakes Writing Room. https://www.elladorman-gajic.co.uk/